Monday 19 February 2018

'Oversight meant duo had to fly back for visas' - Leinster coach

Leinster’s Barry Daly trains at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster’s Barry Daly trains at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leinster coach Leo Cullen lamented the "oversight" that meant two New Zealand players were turned away at immigration on arrival in South Africa.

Isa Nacewa and Jamison Gibson-Park were travelling with the squad for two fixtures in the new PRO14 competition, which includes South African teams for the first time.

But they were turned away at immigration in Johannesburg as a result of not having the correct visas - and had to spend hours waiting in the airport before their long return flight to Dublin.

Speaking at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth yesterday, the coach said: "From our end, it's all new travelling to South Africa with a group so the logistics around that - the issue from us is that we hadn't applied for the visa, we got on our flight, landed in Johannesburg, the two players who were both travelling on New Zealand passports, it was discovered then."

The rules changed after the New Zealand government recently withdrew a visa waiver, claiming some South Africans were exploiting the agreement to visit family and friends and then overstaying the three-month limit. Cullen added that both players had travelled to South Africa in the past.

Read More: Fans make 20-hour trip for double header

"Isa Nacewa and Jamison Gibson-Park had travelled with Super Rugby teams in the past and not needed visas. They'd been asked about that, but it changed recently, it's an oversight on our part.

"The players have travelled back to Ireland, got the visas sorted and they're ready to travel back out and will meet back up with us on Sunday when we get back to Cape Town.

"They'll be back involved and ready for preparations for next week's game."

Cullen confirmed that neither player was in line to start today's game and said disruption to team preparations was kept to a minimum.

"It didn't really affect the group. At the airport, the group just moved on off to the hotel and started our preparations.

"For (director of rugby operations) Guy (Easterby) and (operations manager) Ronan (O'Donnell), they stayed with the lads and tried to get it sorted.

"The rest of the lads were in recovery mode from the flight, getting settled in Jo'burg and going about our normal business."

Irish Independent

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